The Baltimore Orioles are in Sarasota, Fla., finishing up spring training, but back home in Baltimore, the competition to make the team is just as fierce.
About 120 applicants and onlookers lined up outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards on March 9th, hoping to get a job. Not just any job, though – a job as a ballboy or ballgirl with the Orioles for the 2013 season. I am one of those potential ballboys.
Masking my nervousness with excitement, a group of us descend to the basement in an elevator and are handed clipboards with all kinds of paperwork to fill out. We sit in the visiting teams locker room and enter our work history, fill out a questionnaire, and sign a waiver. Perhaps I am sitting at a locker that Derek Jeter, or one of many other reviled Yankees, sit in. Maybe this is a bad omen before my tryout.
I get my paperwork in fast – I write poorly when my palms are sweaty, making my penmanship even worse. Hopefully it wont affect my application. I am the fourth person to turn in their paperwork, and therefore, I get to wear number 4… Lucky number 4. Retired here in Baltimore, the late, great manager Earl Weaver wore this number. I’m starting to feel a little luckier.
I go out in the first group of ten applicants. We walk through a hallway and through a door into the visiting teams dugout on the third base side. We get some instructions from an Orioles employee, and then we start going out down the foul line before the judges.
Debbie Brown thought she did great. The 48-year-old Baltimore resident is on the older side of the girls trying out, but she has years of softball playing experience and thinks her chances are good, though she is not pinning all of her hopes on today’s tryout.
“I had a blast,” Brown said. “I don’t care how I did. It was a lot of fun, to just shag some balls. One for the bucket list.”
I’m also on the other end of the age curve. At 34, I am old, but not the oldest man trying out for the job. 66-year-old Ed Dunham of Westminster, Md., just retired, and he is here trying out for a post retirement job.
“I retired yesterday, looking for a job today,” Dunham said. “I’m serious.”
“You think your old bones can handle this?” I ask him.
“I was out practicing I think I can handle it, I’m used to playing ball,” Dunham said.
In front of the judges, candidates have to answer a few questions, give a “Charge!,” and then go snag a half dozen ground balls. My nervousness is at its peak as it’s my turn to go up in front of the judges.
I think I did all right. My charge was loud, I got all the grounders, I did over-throw one ball, but I think the number 4 spirit of Earl Weaver was with me. One onlooker thought I had done the best so far.
Former Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles was one of the judges, and he took a moment to tell me what he’s looking for and how important this job of ballboy actually is.
“That’s a big part of the game – they hustle, speed up play,” Hoiles said. “So far it’s been a lot of fun.”
“How’d I do?”
“Well, your paper’s still in my binder so you’re still on my good side,” Hoiles said.
Well, I didn’t make the cut. The competition for the $8 an hour job was high and there were a lot of younger men and women that have better baseball skills than I do. And older men and women, too. But I had my moment in the sun, and my charge was the best of the day (at least my mom tells me so), and I’ll be back to try out next year.